EU Commission Vnuk Case FIM Europe Verdict 1200

Photo Credit: Robert Lynn/Future7Media
 

Action by the EU Commission to draft amendments to the Motor Insurance Directive in response to the landmark Vnuk case is expected in the next six weeks.

In a statement issued by FIM Europe’s motorcycling governing body, 24 February, the EU Commission will specifically address the problems that offer potential serious harm to motorsport, both two wheels and four. 

The overall revision of the Directive will be kept separate. As the EU institutions will have to agree, a full process will be required with public consultation, impact assessment and approval by the EU Parliament.

“This is one of the most complex issues we have ever faced in our sport,” told FIM Europe Director of Public Affairs, John Chatterton-Ross. “Jurisdiction in personal injury litigation is a matter for national law. 

“In this case the Court of Justice used EU law to remedy what it perceived as a defect in the national law of Slovenia. FIM Europe will contribute to the consultation process and assist the EU institutions to resolve this”.  

The ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in regards to the Vnuk legal case has the potential to end or drastically change motorsport in Europe as we know it by positioning it financially out of reach for many.

What is the Vnuk Case?

In August 2007 Slovenian Damijan Vunk working on a farm was injured when the farmer who was parking his tractor and trailer in a barn accidentally reversed into the ladder Vnuk was up on. 

Vunk sued for compensation to the amount of €15,944.10. Slovenian courts rejected his claims by saying that the tractor was at the time not being used as a method of transport but one of propulsion to manoeuvre the trailer attached.

The case was then referred to the ECJ. In September 2014 the ECJ ruled in Vnuks favour interpreting the European Motor Insurance Directive to mean that any motor vehicle must have third party insurance regardless of whether they are on private or public land.

 

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So how does this affect motorsport?

In framing their judgment the ECJ extended the scope to the point where many other activities including motorcycle and motorsports are now affected. And because the ECJ is the highest court in the European Union there is no possibility of appeal.

This now means in theory that any motorised vehicle used on any type of private or public land must be covered by third party insurance.

The seriousness of the situation prompted the UK’s Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) in December 2016 to issue a stark warning that British motorsport could end due to the EU ruling.

They wrote in December 2016…

“The insurance industry has made it clear to government that third party risks for motorsport activities are uninsurable, not least because of the sheer number of potential vehicle damage claims that would arise. Therefore, if implemented, the Vnuk judgment would wipe out all legal motor and motorcycle sport activity.”

“If the government implements the Vnuk judgment un-amended, British motorcycle sport would end in the UK,” told MCIA’s CEO Steve Kenward.

Regards enduro, traditional time card races already require competitors to hold an insurance policy to comply with road traffic laws. But closed-course competitions like cross-country races, hare scrambles and endurocross don’t. Even something as simple as practicing on privately owned ground is now an issue.

 

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Golf buggies and even mobility scooters in firing line

However, as mentioned, it has the potential to be even further wide reaching.

Article 3(1) of the First Directive states “the concept of ‘use of vehicles’ in that article covers any use of a vehicle that is consistent with the normal function of that vehicle.”

As well as affecting all motorsport vehicles, it could affect electric bicycles, sit-on lawnmowers, golf buggies, mobility scooters, segways and even motorised ride-on children’s toys. 

Uninsured vehicles parked on private property under the Statutory Off-Road Notification scheme are also at risk.

Given the far reaching consequences of the ECJ ruling — possibly more than initially realised — it’s clear that the wording of the Motor Insurance Directive needs amending, which FIM Europe’s President Dr. Wolfgang Srb is confident will happen, albeit a year later than anticipated…

“We have sympathy for Mr Vnuk. We hope that the unintended consequences of this judgment can be resolved by the EU institutions by quarter four of 2017. 

“This will be a year later than originally planned. FIM Europe will attend to each stage in the process and do everything to assist in obtaining a resolution”.

 

For further reading on the Vnuk Case and what it means, check out this article by motomatters.com: No, The End Is Not Nigh For Motorsport In Britain, Or The EU

 

 

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Robert Lynn
robert@future7media.com